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U.S. anti-Semitism spike raises alarm in local Jewish groups

Volunteers help during a cleanup effort at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University Cit after recent vandalism. Incidents like this one have the local Jewish community in “heightened sense of alert.”

Michael Thomas/Getty Images

After bomb threats targeting Jewish Community Centres and schools throughout the United States, as well as the desecration of multiple cemeteries, Jewish leaders in Vancouver say they're remaining vigilant but have not seen specific threats themselves.

Statistics Canada has said members of the Jewish community are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than other religious groups.

In recent weeks, anti-Semitic notes have been left at a Toronto condominium building and anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted outside a Vancouver school.

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Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Vancouver's Temple Sholom said in an interview it is in a "heightened sense of alert."

"My worry is the prevalence of these kinds of attacks, the bomb threats at the [Jewish Community Centres] and the cemetery desecration and also the spray-painting, it has a bit of a numbing effect, and so people begin to see that as the new normal," he said.

"We don't want to ever accept that as normal."

The Vancouver Police Department in late November said it did not have hate-crime data available for 2016, but most of its hate-crime investigations involved property damage and many of the more recent files anecdotally appeared to involve the Jewish community.

A Vancouver police spokesperson Tuesday said it did not have any new information to share.

The rabbi said his synagogue has security protocols in place and stays in contact with Vancouver police through the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver's security task force.

Of the security briefings, Mr. Moskovitz said, "We wouldn't miss one nowadays."

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Mr. Moskovitz is from California and was working in Los Angeles in August, 1999, when a white supremacist opened fire at a Jewish Community Centre and wounded five people, including four children. The gunman also killed a Filipino-American postal worker.

Mr. Moskovitz's synagogue was just down the street from the community centre and one of the children who was injured, a young boy, was a member of his congregation.

The gunman had considered other sites before selecting the North Valley Jewish Community Center because it had less security.

"From that we learned the very valuable lesson that you can't take things for granted and that you have to not only have internal security but you have to project outwardly," the rabbi said.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver referred a request for comment to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Nico Slobinsky, Pacific region director for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said any anti-Semitic attack or racist incident is a concern, but he was not aware of any specific threats in the Vancouver area.

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"It's important to remain both vigilant and aware and to stand together against hate," he said in an interview.

A Vancouver police spokesperson referred a request for hate-crime figures to Statistics Canada. Statscan, however, said its most recent data were for 2014.

In 2014, of the 429 police-reported hate crimes involving religion across Canada, 213 involved the Jewish community, the data said. There were 99 incidents involving the Muslim community, and 35 involving Catholics.

Of the 611 police-reported hate crimes involving race that year, 238 involved people who were black.

In Vancouver, Statistics Canada recorded 47 instances of police-reported hate crime in all in 2014.

A B.C. RCMP spokesperson in an e-mail said it has not seen an increase in hate-crime incidents in recent months.

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Based in Vancouver, Sunny has been with The Globe and Mail since November, 2010. More


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